We are constantly being bombarded with statistics showing the increasing number of people who are overweight or obese in New Zealand. We are told that 1 in 3 New Zealand adults are classified as obese. Obese means having a BMI of 30 or over. Check your BMI here
While BMI is not the be all and end all of accurately working out ‘over fatness’, it is a guide and unless you are very heavily boned or heavily muscled, then having a BMI of over 25 probably means you could do with losing some weight. Once your BMI hits 30, then you are at increasing risk of developing health conditions.
But why are so many people obese? What are we doing to ourselves? I think these are some of the reasons:
- We are eating more meals away from home than ever before. Even when you make the best choice you can, inevitably restaurant and cafe meals are much higher in energy than food you would prepare yourself.
- Portion sizes have grown, as have the plates and glasses we drink from.
- We have access to a huge range of food now and we have become more open to trying new cuisine, often without realising how much energy is contained in that food. Indian cuisine is a good example of this. It is generally high in fat and thus energy.
- Nibbles and treats have become more sophisticated and often contain more energy than the main meal following them.
- Liquid calories. Simply we are drinking more alcohol and cafe coffees than was the norm 20 years ago.
- So many things have become everyday foods and drinks, rather than special occasion food and drinks, to be enjoyed occasionally.
The MRI scan below of a normal weight woman and an obese woman is a really good illustration of where fat sits. Sure, we all know about the muffin top and the back fat, but you can clearly see the fat inside the body cavity (visceral fat). This fat surrounding the organs is the dangerous kind of fat that releases inflammatory chemicals and causes all kind of health issues.
Speaking of muffin tops – how many of you religiously do sit ups or crunches in the belief that it will whittle away the fat from your midriff? You know what, you cannot spot reduce!
The bottom line is that you are exercising specific muscles, you are not exercising the fat that covers them. You are making very little difference to the fat cells. No matter how many sit ups, crunches, woodchops, or whatever other abdominal exercises you do, the only way to lose tummy fat is to eat the right amount and right kind of food consistently. The exercises will certainly tighten the muscles, which is a good thing, but it won’t burn the fat specifically off them.